JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday downplayed the proposal of Democratic Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy to bar from stepping on American soil any of the Philippine officials who had a hand in Sen. Leila de Lima’s “politically motivated” imprisonment.
In a statement, Guevarra said the US senators’ views do not reflect the sentiment of the entire United States Congress.
Guevarra issued the statement when his take was sought on Sen. Bong Go’s “counter-proposal” banning the two American legislators from entering the Philippines.
“I do not believe that the views and opinion of a handful of US senators led by Messrs Durbin and Leahy reflect the sentiment of the entire US Congress, majority of whom exert great efforts to acquire full and unbiased information before opening their mouths, who practice what they preach about due process and the rule of law, and most especially respect the independence of a co-equal sovereign nation.”
“These minority senators do not have to bother about what the Philippine governmentt may do in reaction to their public statements; instead they have to deal with the reaction of their own constituencies and the judgment of a whole thinking community of democratic nations,” Guevarra said.
The amendment, which was suggested by the two US senators, formed part of an appropriations bill on state and foreign operations, which will be tackled further by the entire US Senate and the US Congress.
De Lima is facing charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade at Branches 205, 206 and 256 of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.
Around 40 prosecution witnesses have testified against her, including former Bureau of Corrections officer in charge Rafael Ragos and Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who used to head the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police.
A former chair of the Commission on Human Rights who had been critical of the President’s brutal anti-drug campaign, De Lima maintained that the drug charges against her were all fabrications and politically motivated.
“Thank you, Senators Durbin and Leahy, and many other champions of justice and democracy, for reminding us that the world is still watching,” De Lima said.
But Go, former special assistant to the President, rejected the proposal of the US senators.
“This is an affront to our sovereignty and to our ability to govern ourselves,” Go said in a speech at Balangiga, Eastern Samar, on Saturday.
“I will suggest to President Duterte to also ban these senators from entering our country for interfering (in) our internal affairs,” Go said.